Burmese pro-democracy activist and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has arrived in India, the country where she studied at university four decades ago.
Suu Kyi was invited to Delhi by Sonia Gandhi, the president of the ruling Indian National Congress party, according to the Press Trust of India.
In Delhi, she will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and meet with parliament.
Her weeklong stay will include a jaunt to her alma mater, Lady Sri Ram College in Delhi, where she gained a degree in politics in 1964. (Suu Kyi's mother, Daw Khin Yi, was the Burmese ambassador to India at the time.)
“The visit of Aung San Suu Kyi would be part of our ongoing engagement with the democratic and multiparty polity in Myanmar. It would provide opportunity to exchange views on all matters of mutual interest with a view to building upon the positive momentum in India-Myanmar relations,” said an official statement from India's Ministry of External [Foreign] Affairs.
The former political prisoner will deliver the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture in Delhi on Wednesday. (In 1992, while in Myanmar, Suu Kyi receivede the Jawaharlal Nehru award for international understanding.)
After departing Delhi, Suu Kyi's itinerary will features stops at India's technological hub Bangalore, as well as a tour of rural areas in Andhra Pradesh to witness rural development and women’s empowerment programs that she hopes to replicate in Myanmar.
Like many Western nations, India –which initially supported Myanmar's pro-democracy movement and provided refuge for thousands of Burmese students in the wake of a 1988 military crackdown on protests – hopes to invest in the country which is rich in natural resources.
However, India had already reached out to Myanmar's military government in the 1990s prior to Suu Kyi's release from house arrest, which may sour the current visit. The leaders of India and Myanmar have both visited each other in the past year in an effort to deepen economic relations.
Among other projects, India plans to construct the Trilateral Highway, which would connect northeastern India to Myanmar and Thailand.
In an interview with India's Hindu newspaper, Suu Kyi expressed both optimism and caution with respect to India.
"I would like would-be investors to focus on how to bring us closer together as a union, but at the same time, to be fully aware of the fact that development is no substitute for democracy,” she said.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.